By suspending Parliament on December 30, 2009, the second December in a row, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was hoping to get some breathing space away from the glare of the House of Commons where his minority government’s every move has been scrutinized.
But it hasn’t exactly been a restful time. Harper’s decision to suspend the parliamentary session has been highly criticized by opposition parties and political observers alike. It has even earned him a strong rebuke in The Economist, which called the prime minister’s reasons to prorogue unconvincing.
Parliament was set to return on January 25 but will now resume on March 3. The first order of business will be the customary Throne speech to open the session, and will outline the Conservative government’s main priorities. Next up, a new deficit-fighting budget. The hope, observers say, is that the firestorm over the calls by a House of Commons parliamentary committee to establish an inquiry into the so-called Afghan detainee affair will have lost steam. Allegations that the government knew that Afghan prisoners transferred by Canadian soldiers were being abused in Afghan jails have proven embarrassing.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the Prime Minister dismissed his critics. He described his decision as a “routine” prorogation that was necessary to “recalibrate the government’s agenda” in order to focus on the economy. He even hinted in a later interview that prorogation could become a regular annual occurrence, noting that two- to three-year sessions were a bad idea.